After an upset win over the Miami Dolphins, the Green Bay Packers return home for their final two games of the season. They host the division winners in the Minnesota Vikings, who are fighting for the one seed in the NFC playoff picture. Their first matchup against the Vikings this year came in the season opener, where the Packers struggled to do anything offensively, only mustering seven points thanks to an AJ Dillon touchdown, and Justin Jefferson absolutely shredded the Packers defense to the tune of 11 catches, 184 yards, and two touchdowns. The Packers lost that game 20-7 and the game will be remembered for Christain Watson’s drop on the Packers’ first offensive snap of the game that would’ve gone for a score. Watson is a different player now, and while he has been limited in practice due to a hip injury, he will play today after confirming in warmups he is good to go. Watson will be the difference maker today and will help Aaron Rodgers and the Packers offense dissect a mediocre Minnesota secondary.
Defensively, the Packers will have to allow Jaire Alexander to have more one-on-one matchups with Jefferson. If the Packers allow Jefferson to have his way like last game they will not win this game. The Packers have done well in the second half defensively this year, shutting out the Dolphins last week, their third consecutive game doing so. The Packers defense will need to step up big again and shut down the Vikings offense.
The Packers will also have Keisean Nixon again, who missed a majority of last week’s game due to a groin injury-a huge gain for the Packers special teams unit. Nixon could once again help the Packers offense, the question is will they capitalize with touchdowns instead of field goals this week?
With the Washington Commanders losing to the Cleveland Browns this morning, the Packers control their own playoff destiny, needing to win both of their final two games. It won’t be easy but the Packers are capable of beating a polarizing Vikings squad at home.
The Packers were absolutely dominant in the first half over the Vikings, though it didn’t seem that way at first. After the defense forced a quick three-and-out, the Packers offense would go three-and-out, but their punt would be blocked and the Vikings would take over at the Packers two-yard-line. The defense held strong though, and forced the Vikings to settle for a field goal. Then the floodgates opened. Keisean Nixon would take the ensuing kickoff 105 yards to the house for the Packers first score of the game and his first career touchdown. Two drives later, Darnell Savage would take a tipped interception 75 yards for his first career touchdown. The next drive the Vikings would miss a field goal attempt, and the following drive Kirk Cousins would throw his second interception, as Adrian Amos snagged a batted ball out of the air. A second missed field goal would punctate a first half the Packers defense dominated. The offense took longer to get going, but would score on their final three drives of the half, a 26-yard Mason Crosby field goal, a 21-yard Robert Tonyan catch from Rodgers, and a 56-yard Crosby field goal that banks off the crossbar and goes through to put the Packers up 27-3 at the half.
The domination didn’t stop in the second half. The defense continued to suffocate Cousins and the Vikings offense, with Kenny Clark strip-sacking Cousins in the red zone and recovering the fumble on the Vikings’ first drive of the half. Rodgers and the offense capitalized on the turnover and drove the length of the field and AJ Dillon powered into the endzone to go up 34-3. The next drive was over just as fast as it started as Rudy Ford jumped in front of a pass to snag Cousins’ third interception of the day. Rodgers and the offense would once again capitalize on the turnover and Rodgers would ice the game on a two-yard scamper into the endzone to go up 41-3. 41 unanswered points for the Packers. With the game out of hand, both teams began sitting their starters, and the Vikings would score two more touchdowns before time expired. The Packers were in control of the game from the first play as they steamrolled the Vikings 41-17 to put them in perfect position to make the playoffs.
Players of the Game
A couple weeks ago I predicted Keisean Nixon would return a kickoff for a touchdown at some point in the season. Today he started the scoring off for the Packers with an 105-yard kickoff return on the Vikings first kickoff of the day. He has been electric for the Packers this year and has almost single handedly turned the season around. He needs to stay a Packer for as long as possible.
The Whole Defense:
The defense played lights out today, forcing a whopping four turnovers and a defensive touchdown while only allowing 3 meaningful points. The best part is, it wasn’t just one player doing everything. Everybody got in on the beatdown. Jaire shut down Jefferson, who only had one catch on the day. Ford, Amos, and Savage each got an interception, Justin Hollins and Kenny Clark sacked cousins, Quay and Rasul made great plays to force incompletions. The Vikings offense was non-existent for three and a half quarters thanks to the stellar play of the defense.
For the first time this year the Packers made virtually no mistakes on either side of the ball and completely took over the game. The offense was moving the ball like they had in recent years, the defense played light-out, starting with Jaire getting the chance to shadow Jefferson and shut him down, and the special teams, outside of a blocked punt, played outstanding. The defense set the tone early with a redzone stop on their own two-yard line and the Packers never looked back.
After being embarrassed by the Vikings early in the season, the Packers got their revenge and smacked the Vikings around to the tune of 41 straight points for the Packers’ first 40-bomb of the season. The Packers impressive performance in all three aspects of football against a 12-3 team, regardless of how fraudulent they may or not be, is always a good sign of things to come.
Another positive take away from today: no injuries. The Packers didn’t suffer any injuries today and will go into their final home matchup a completely healthy team, another big win for them today.
The Packers are getting hot at just the right time, but the road isn’t getting any smoother. With the Packers win today and the Commanders losing this morning, the Packers control their own destiny, and with a win over the equally-hot Detroit Lions (8-8), who also just beat down a division opponent 41-10, will enter the playoffs as the number seven seed.